The taluka of Navapur in Nandurbar district in Maharashtra is famous for its delicious fruits, vegetables and foodgrains. Navapur is traditionally known to be a stronghold of the tribals who arrived here centuries ago when their homeland was invaded by the Mughals. Some of the best agricultural crops of India like groundnuts, soya bean, rice and tur dal are found in this municipality.
The most outstanding produce of Navapura is its tur dal also known as white tur for its shiny golden white colour. This indigenous crop locally called as desi tur, gawran tur, pandhari tur, Diwali tur and khokali grows well in the black cotton soil found here.
Farmers say that growing pigeon pea or red gram in black cotton soil is extremely beneficial to the soil as it fixes atmospheric nitrogen in the soil, adds organic matter and micronutrients and allows for more nitrogen synthesis which helps the crop to absorb greater amounts of amino acids which renders the dal a special aroma.
Navapur is surrounded by hills and is located at the starting point of the Satpura Range. The average rainfall varies between 1200 mm to 1300 mm and average temperature is between 27 °C to 30 °C. It is the hilly terrain and good rainfall that helps to maintain the coolness in the atmosphere. The superior quality of Navapur tur dal is attributed to its favourable agro-climatic conditions.
Farmers prepare the land for cultivation by the third week of May. Sowing is done when the rainy season starts (June 15 – July 15). Farmers cultivate this variety as an intercrop with rice, soya bean, groundnuts and sometimes sorghum. Seeds from the previous year that have been specially preserved in kothi (a compartment created below the ground made up of cow dung and sand) are used.
This crop is cultivated using organic methods only and fertilizers and pesticides are not used. This rainfed crop is grown in the kharif season and takes only around 90 to 120 days for cultivation. The seeds in the pod make a distinctive sound when they move in the wind signalling that the crop is ready for harvest.
The red gram is kept in rooms made using cow dung for drying. After curing, the red gram is cleaned and separated from its residue. Farmers follow the age-old technique to prepare de-hulled split cotyledons from the seeds of red gram. The red gram seeds are roasted with ash in a large pan over an earthen stove. This helps to spread the heat evenly and aids in de-hulling of the outer soft and sticky covering of the seeds and reducing the moisture content. This unique method adds to its aroma and taste.
Sometimes, these heated seeds are ground in hand-operated grinding stones called chakki. This process lends it a heady aroma and packs in more flavour. The cooking time of these de-hulled split cotyledons of Navapur tur dal is lesser as compared to other varieties of tur dal. Locals say that the fragrance and taste of this dal will increase one’s appetite.
Navapur tur dal is a small grain size variety, white in colour, rich in polyphenols, phytolectins and protein and renowned for its distinctive taste and aroma. This highly nutritional crop is a key component in the daily diet of the locals and tribals of this municipality. Tribals use its broken seeds, skin and pods as feed for domestic animals and the dry stems as domestic fuel, to build walls and sheds and to make sweepers.
Navapur tur dal was awarded the Geographical Indication Tag (GI) in 2016.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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